Alaska Airlines says it's found no evidence of a systemic problem with the pressurization system on it fleet of MD80 and 737 jets. As NewsChannel 8 reported, Alaska had a series of six similar incidents between the end of December and the end of February, where planes had to make unscheduled landings. The airline says a fleetwide inspection turned up nothing unusual.
Meanwhile, in an interview with The Seattle Times, Alaska Chairman Bill Ayer says the company is on the right track. He told the Times, "As I look back at the decisions that we've made, I would say that they have largely been the right decisions. Certainly the direction has been right."
Bill Ayer, Alaska's Chairman and CEO (Photo Courtesy Steve Ringman, The Seattle Times)
Ayer cites the fact that his airline is one of only three in the US to turn a profit in 2005. Alaska made $55 million. A relatively modest profit for an airline with more than a hundred jets and a dominant position in most major West Coast markets. But the only airline to turn a larger profit was Southwest, which made $489 million. AirTran, which doesn't fly to PDX, and concentrates on its Atlanta hub, made $3 million.
Alaska did much better than Portland's other carriers. Compare it's profit to United's $557 million loss; American's $681 million loss; Northwest's $1.7 billion loss; or Delta's staggering $2.2 billion loss.
Alaska and it's sister airline, Horizon, continue to operate Portland's largest hub. Together, they connect passengers from all over the Northwest to flights up and down the West Coast, at PDX. They continue to add service here... with a new PDX-Reno route starting in April.
An Alaska Airlines 737-700 lifts off from the runway at PDX (Photo Courtesy Airliners.net).
Alaska says it will continue to expand. The airline has more than 30 737-800's on order. Those new planes are being equipped to fly long, overwater routes, which has fueled speculation Alaska might soon begin flights to Hawaii.
PDX to Hawaii is certainly a possibility, but Alaska would face stiff competition against a couple of its partners. Both Hawaiian and Northwest operate daily flights from PDX to Honolulu, and Hawaiian operates four weekly flights from PDX to Maui. More likely is Seattle and Anchorage to Hawaii... but you can be sure the Port of Portland will be lobbying for new flights.
For those of us in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, the better Alaska does, the better our service will be at PDX. Alaska has shown a repeated pattern of adding flights at its Portland hub, and it will continue to do so as PDX sets new passenger records.